My 3rd half marathon is in the books. After posting the day before about my worries about the rain and my allergies, I was a little hesitant about how the race would go. Let’s just say what went down was nothing I’d ever thought about happening on Saturday. But let’s start from the beginning, alright?
I woke up at 5 am after sleeping about 4 hours, and was excited and ready to go! I had been feeling pretty lousy and low on energy the two days before due to allergies, but I felt full of energy on Saturday morning! I quickly got ready and ate my traditional race day breakfast of 8 ounces of orange juice, 1 Luna Bar, and 1 large banana. My parents, brother, and I walked from the hotel to the race start, and I warmed up there. Before the race started they had a moment of silence for Boston, and then they sang “Sweet Caroline”. What a great race start! It was almost perfect running weather- a little overcast, low 50’s, and some humidity. Unlike last year, I was in a corral more in the middle, so I crossed the race start at 13 minutes on the race clock.
Mile 0-1: This mile went really quickly, and I hardly remember anything about it. I thankfully didn’t have to do too much weaving, and that was nice (again- unlike last year!). I got a bad side cramp about half a mile in, just like last year. I’m not sure what it is that does that, especially since I almost never get them in training (I’m thinking it was difficulty breathing with allergies?). This was the first race I had my garmin, and I held back and made sure to keep a pace that I had trained at.
Mile 1-2: Again, this mile flew by. My side cramp went away here, so that was really nice. I was still feeling pretty good at this point in the race.
Mile 2-3: Lots of entertainment at this point, so that was nice. I remember feeling like the air was really stuffy at this point, so I was sweating a lot and looking forward to the water already.
Mile 3-4: At this point I was remembering every turn of the course, so I knew what was coming next. Right before Mile 4 there was a singer with a guitar player in the road playing, so it was fun to run and listen to them. There’s a sight hill I ran up here, and Mile 4 is close to the top of that!
Mile 4-5: Right when I hit Mile 4 I took my first 2 shot bloks (margarita flavor for extra salt) and then hit a water stop. I felt a little “blah” at this point and definitely wasn’t having as much fun as the beginning of the race, but I thought it was because we were getting close to the speedway (and I don’t like the speedway!).
Mile 5-6: I felt my energy pick up a bit here and did lots of positive talk as I neared the entrance of the speedway. There were dancing cows for Chick-fil-A that were on the course cheering us on, and that gave me something to think about instead of the looming race track. Entering the speedway is always a good moment. There’s a steep hill down from the street and then back up into the speedway, and people cheer going through the tunnel. It’s fun.
Mile 6-7: Oh the speedway- my nemesis. I hate that place, but I really did try to keep a good attitude going in. The first mile wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being last year, which was probably due to the fact that I ran on the very inside of the track (no slant!), and as often as I could actually ran on the grass right on the edge of the track. The track cement is just really hard. I hit mile marker seven really quickly and was pretty surprised.
Mile 7-8: Right after mile 7 I stopped for about 20 seconds to stretch quickly. I thought if I kept myself loose on the track I wouldn’t hurt as bad getting off of it. I hit the brickyard and did manage to kiss the bricks this year! I took my second two shot bloks (also the margarita flavor for more sodium) at this point as well. It was during this mile that my left leg gave out a little bit and I stumbled but caught myself.
Mile 8-9: The first half of mile 8 was still on the speedway. I remember thinking a lot about chips and salsa at this point and desperately wanting something salty. Despite drinking all the gatorade offered to me and eating the shot bloks, I was really craving salt at this point. At about mile 8.3 I texted my family to let them know that I was “about to leave this hell”, and I was really happy to get off the track. While it wasn’t as bad as I remember it being, it definitely isn’t so fun. When I got off the track I noticed that I didn’t pick up as easily as I did last year, and felt really blah and low on energy.
Mile 9-10: Right when hitting mile marker 9 I remember thinking “oh my gosh- I have almost no energy left”. I don’t think that this has really ever happened to me, especially not in any long runs or in any previous half marathon. I ate three more shot bloks this mile (cran razz) and prayed that it would give me what I needed. At this point my legs were feeling a little crampy and achy and my pace was slowing down despite trying to push myself.
Mile 10-11: Yup, I hit empty. Is this the wall that I hear so much about? Whatever it was I’d never felt it before and I definitely didn’t like it. I really felt like I had nothing left in me and had no idea what to do. My legs were cramping pretty badly at this point and I had really slowed down (I sent a text to my family that said “10.4 miles. legs are really cramped up- tough running day”). I was going much slower than my training runs at this point and I felt beyond frustrated and annoyed. Right before mile 11 I stopped to stretch a bit (my IT band was only bothering me slightly- one good point in this race!), but I guess I looked like I was in a lot of pain because someone stopped and asked if I needed to be carried. Nope. I kept telling myself the following: “Caroline- you have POTS and can handle a lot of pain- DO NOT GIVE UP.”
Mile 11-12: I turned on my music and prayed that my leg wouldn’t completely cramp up this mile. It was really bad. I truly was worried every step that I took that I wouldn’t be able to go on. I had nothing left in my legs, but since I’ve been doing pilates and best body bootcamp, I had something in my core and my arms that I could use. I definitely ran the last miles more with my upper body than my lower body.
Mile 12-13: As soon as I hit the mile 12 marker I texted my family to let them know my location (they were at mile 12.8). In all capital letters I just wrote “PAIN”- all I wanted to do was sit down and sob. While a few tears here and there did escape, I refused to allow myself to cry because that would’ve been extra energy and I needed everything that I had. I kept plugging away, knowing that my family was getting closer and closer. I was so happy to see them as 12.8. Right after I passed them I got hit with a leg cramp so bad I stopped in my tracks and had to stretch it out. My dad ran about 0.1 of a mile cheering me on, and I definitely cried a little bit then. I hated almost everything at this point, and even though I had 0.2 to go, I thought I would have to crawl. I wasn’t sure my legs would be able to finish.
Mile 13.0-13.1: This last stupid tenth of a mile felt like it lasted SO LONG. I wobbled along and crossed the finish line. There was no smile, no excited arms in the air, and no happy feelings. I was in pain but so relieved to be done.
And that’s my 3rd half marathon. I finished in 2:41 which I am beyond frustrated about. It was 10 minutes slower than my half PR, and I trained for a much better race than this. I ran the second half slower than a lot of my training runs, and that was frustrating to me. I’ve never gotten leg cramps while running before, and I have no idea what happened. It was 7 miles of feeling badly, with no energy, and leg cramps. I had to dig deeper to a place I didn’t know was in me physically, and I was able to keep going despite the bad pain that I was in. Despite my time being slower than I had hoped, I still set a 12 minute course PR, and I have to recognize that as a success. Last year I don’t think I would’ve been able to finish the race. The second half of this race was run with a lot of mental energy and upper body strength, both of which I’ve worked on improving a lot with running this past year.
The race wasn’t what I wanted, and I’m beyond frustrated that my body didn’t behave the way that I wanted it to on race day. But you know what? This race taught me that I can handle way more with running than I thought was possible. It showed me the deep level of endurance and willpower that I have even in the face of pain. It showed me that I am in much better shape than last year as well, and I’m happy about that. And now it will push me even harder into training for my next half marathon.